Living conditions

The "assembly centers" were hastily erected quarters located throughout the West Coast at fairgrounds, racetracks and other similar facilities. Conditions at these locations were appalling. People were housed in animal stalls and barracks with communal bathrooms and mess halls. Privacy was next to nonexistent. Most families lived in a 20-by-20-foot room separated from the next "apartment" by wood partitions that did not reach the ceiling. Shortages of food and deplorable sanitation were common. Overcrowding, uncertainty, and stress created tension in the "assembly centers," even as the demoralized camp inmates tried to improve living conditions.

World War II (231)
Temporary Assembly Centers (231)
Living conditions (395)

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395 items
Japanese American receiving lunch (ddr-densho-36-42)
img Japanese American receiving lunch (ddr-densho-36-42)
The assembly center was composed of blocks, each with its own kitchen and dining area.
Baggage arrival at assembly center (ddr-densho-36-41)
img Baggage arrival at assembly center (ddr-densho-36-41)
The Puyallup Assembly Center, also known as "Camp Harmony," was located at the Puyallup fairgrounds. The center was open from April 28, 1942, through September 23, 1942. Most camp inmates were from Seattle, Washington.
Japanese American washing clothes (ddr-densho-36-36)
img Japanese American washing clothes (ddr-densho-36-36)
The Puyallup Assembly Center was composed of a number of blocks. Each block had a communal washroom, such as the one shown here.
Barracks interior (ddr-densho-36-39)
img Barracks interior (ddr-densho-36-39)
Barracks apartments were small--approximately 8 by 10 feet or 15 by 20 feet--and offered little privacy. Japanese Americans tried hard to make the stark apartments homier. They made furniture, such as the vanity table in this redecorated barracks apartment, which was constructed by hand from scrap lumber.
Arrival at the Puyallup Assembly Center (ddr-densho-36-32)
img Arrival at the Puyallup Assembly Center (ddr-densho-36-32)
The Puyallup Assembly Center, which many camp inmates called "Camp Harmony," was on the site of the annual Western Washington Fair. The center was constructed in only seventeen days. Barracks were erected in converted livestock stalls near the parking lots and under the grandstand. Japanese Americans remained at the fairgrounds from April 28 to September 23,1942, …
Amache camp housing (ddr-densho-390-64)
img Amache camp housing (ddr-densho-390-64)
A man walks along a dirt road in front of several Amache concentration camp housing buildings.
Drawing of the south east corner of Tanforan (ddr-densho-392-23)
doc Drawing of the south east corner of Tanforan (ddr-densho-392-23)
Caption written by Kenneth Iyeki: "The scene is in the south east corner of Tanforan. Partially hidden behind trees and bushes were [?] guard posts."
Drawing from the middle of the race track at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-1)
doc Drawing from the middle of the race track at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-1)
Caption written by Kenneth Iyeki: "Here is another scene, skeched from the middle of the track. The striped pole in the foreground represented a furlough. 220 yards. The barrack in the scene is number 115. There were five rooms to a barrack. Five families. Separating each room were plywood walls, built half-way to the ceiling. One …
Drawing from the center of the racetrack at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-24)
doc Drawing from the center of the racetrack at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-24)
Caption written by Kenneth Iyeki: "Here is a scene from the center of the racetrack. I often wondered how the horses felt when pounding down the stretch with the crowd screaming like mad. The building near the center to the left is a shower room. Beyond that, underneath the grandstand is the canteen where one could …
Drawing of the inside of a shower room at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-21)
doc Drawing of the inside of a shower room at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-21)
Caption written by Kenneth Iyeki: "Here is a typical shower room (men's). By the time we were to be shipped to Utah, the plywood walls were warped and twisted by the constant humidity. The shwere would turn from hot to cold and from cold to hot. One often traversed the entire camp, searching for a shower …
Drawing of the latrine and barracks at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-8)
doc Drawing of the latrine and barracks at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-8)
Caption by Kenneth Iyeki: "A scene midway on the track length on the west side of camp. At the very end of the track to the left is the commisary warehouse. The rails were a favorite of youngsters. They would boast of having walked such and such a distance. Never heard of anyone balancing his way …
Drawing of the music school at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-5)
doc Drawing of the music school at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-5)
Caption written by Kenneth Iyeki: "This is the Tanforan music school which prior to evacuation served the racetrack fans as a refreshment house. At all hours, the sounds of pianos and violins would sound forth from every window. Every so often, music concerts would be held, and the edifice would be jammed every time. The [sic] …
Drawing of the latrine and barracks at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-6)
doc Drawing of the latrine and barracks at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-6)
Caption by Kenneth Iyeki: "This is a scene from the roof of an old stable. The latrine building which served our area [?] to the left. To the right is barrack #16 and between the two buildings is the stable where the batchelors [sic] used to sit all day and talk. Beyond the stable, partially hidden …
Drawing of the view from the top of the grandstand at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-12)
doc Drawing of the view from the top of the grandstand at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-12)
Caption written by Kenneth Iyeki: "This is a portion of the landscape which could be seen from the top of the grandstand across the broad highway. Somehow, it made one feel better when he climbed the long stair to sit alone and look out on the hills. It was so beautiful and such a relief from …
Drawing inside the laundry room at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-25)
doc Drawing inside the laundry room at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-25)
Caption written by Kenneth Iyeki: "This scene is the inside of the camp laundry which we of barracks #14, #13, and #16 used. Most of the time, there would be no hot water, and we would have to carry it from the latrines in pails, if the latrines had hot water. OVer half of the tubs …
Drawing of warehouses and the music conservatory at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-17)
doc Drawing of warehouses and the music conservatory at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-17)
Caption written by Kenneth Iyeki: "On the left is a warehouse, futher down is the music conservatory and finally at the end of the road is the mess mine building. We used to play on the tin roof of the warehouse. I abruptly stopped such shenanigans when an official angrily told me that a mine which …
Drawing of the latrines at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-19)
doc Drawing of the latrines at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-19)
Caption written by Kenneth Iyeki: "These two buildings are the latrines. There were so many people in ration to the facilities that we often was obliged to try and reach another area's latrine 'in time.' The one to the left is the women's and that to the right is the men's. The women, being women put …
Drawing of recreation hall #6 at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-16)
doc Drawing of recreation hall #6 at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-16)
Caption written by Kenneth Iyeki: "The barrack in the foreground was the recreation #6 building. Each area possessed its own rec hall. Competition was keen among them. From out the open window would [?] the sound of ping pong games in progress, little children screaming in laughter or just screaming, girls daring the boys to a …
Drawing of recreation hall #6 headquarters at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-18)
doc Drawing of recreation hall #6 headquarters at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-18)
Caption written by Kenneth Iyeki: "The small house was the headquarters for recreation #6. In the backyard, little children would play, while inside, the recreation leaders."
Drawing of the northwest corner Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-14)
doc Drawing of the northwest corner Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-14)
Caption written by Kenneth Iyeki: "This is a scene near the north west corner of camp. The metal scraps seen on the ground were used by the internees in hammering out useful utensils for use in camp life. The guard part shown, is the scene of the only harshness shown by a guard during my entire …
Drawing of the barracks at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-13)
doc Drawing of the barracks at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-13)
Caption written by Kenneth Iyeki: "This scene is the most repugnant to all the internees at Tanfo. Not the actual [?] but the odors which wafted about, especially on moonlit nights. A sewer[?] which refused to operate properly was the cause. The children who played in the gullies seemed unmindful. A few yards to the right …
Drawing of the inside of a classroom at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-22)
doc Drawing of the inside of a classroom at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-392-22)
Caption written by Kenneth Iyeki: "This is my wonderful history class (under the grandstand). The entire school was housed under one roof with no partition between classes. There wold be so much noise that one day we, weather permitting, the teachers would [?] their classes out on the grandstand where there would be less noise. The …
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